DURBAN - THE Hlophe family in Coffee Farm, KwaNdengezi, near Pinetown are desperate to find seven missing family members who were washed away by the floods last month.
Six of the missing were children under the age of 10 and the seventh was a 67-year-old.
The body of another family member, 49-year-old Zanele Hlophe, was recovered some days after the floods.
Among the missing is 1-year-old Hlelokuhle, who celebrated her first birthday three days before she disappeared.
Her mother, Sinenhlanhla Hlophe, said on the night of the incident she had gone out to help relatives when she suddenly saw a high wave of water swallow the house that her child and seven other relatives were in.
“We had a party to celebrate her first birthday; little did we know that it would be her last,” said Sinenhlanhla.
The family members were washed away after flood waters engulfed their home.
Kholisiwe Hlophe, who lost her 3-year-old son, Dumolwakhe, said she had never imagined she would mark his third birthday without him, and the day made his absence even harder.
According to the family, metro police search and rescue teams have been to their home to attempt a recovery mission, but their efforts were hindered by the large boulders and rocks surrounding it.
“The search team informed us that their rescue dogs can’t sniff or go under the rocks, and each time they return empty handed,” said Kholisiwe.
Over the weekend, eThekwini Municipality dispatched a TLB tractor to assist with the search but the attempts were fruitless.
Despite the setbacks, the family said they remained hopeful that they would be able to find their loved ones.
“We have not lost hope. We will continue searching and we welcome all the help coming from the community,” said Sinenhlanhla.
Several civil society organisations have pitched in to assist the family.
EThekwini Civil Society Forum chairperson Siyabonga Nzimande applauded the forum’s women’s team as they came out in their numbers at the weekend to help with the search and recovery operation.
Nzimande said that as civil society organisations they had offered the family psycho-social services, grief support and food parcels.
He added that he was concerned that no missing persons case had been opened and he encouraged the family to open one with the police.
In an update last week, Premier Sihle Zikalala said that search-and-rescue teams had responded to 542 calls and rescued 164 people and recovered 62 bodies.
He said 63 people were still unaccounted for.
Provincial government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said search-andrescue operations were ongoing and that every flood-related case, including the Hlophe family matter, was important.
“It is important to deal with such cases with dignity; the family has suffered a double tragedy as the remains from an old grave on the property resurfaced during search-and-rescue operations,” he added.